Rookies keep the NFL exciting. They inject new blood into the game and give fans new reasons for optimism.
Some of these new youngsters are in terrific situations to shine this fall. Here are five to watch that should make early impacts for their new teams.
Aaron Curry, OLB, Seahawks
Lost among all the focus on glamour boys such as Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Michael Crabtree and Josh Freeman is possibly the most talented player in this rookie class who could create the most impact in 2009. Aaron Curry is in the mold of DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers—an athletic and fierce pass rusher who can get to the quarterback many different ways. The Seahawks ranked dead last in passing yards allowed in 2008, and Curry should make things much easier for the defensive backs. His presence should help to free up the aging Patrick Kerney.
Who’s Affected (+/-): Marcus Trufant (+), Patrick Kerney (+), Lofa Tatupu (+)
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos
Yes, Denver is loaded with running backs yet again, but many of them are injury prone or veterans who have been bouncing around the league. Moreno brings instant help to an offense that’s all of a sudden in question due to the trade of Jay Cutler. Moreno’s ability to cut and turn on the speed fits perfectly in the offense. Expect him to get most of the carries by October.
Who’s Affected (+/-): Selvin Young (-), Kyle Orton (+), Eddie Royal (+)
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers
The early reports point to a Week 1 start for big Josh Freeman, but let’s face it: The Bucs don’t have many other choices. The addition of tight end Kellen Winslow will help Freeman immensely, as a young quarterback’s best friend is often a reliable tight end. Plus, Anonio Bryant is coming off of a 1,200-yard season. Don’t expect Freeman to make a big impact early, but if Tampa Bay uses him right, the team could throw a wrench into a tight NFC South division.
Who’s Affected (+/-): Byron Leftwich (-), Kellen Winslow (+), Antonio Bryant (+)
Chris Wells, RB, Cardinals
Edgerrin James was there when the Cardinals needed him most last season, but it was clear that he would not be back with the team for 2009. So the defending NFC champs picked up Chris Wells at the end of the first round. Wells instantly improves the NFL’s worst rushing offense that averaged just 73.6 yards per carry last season. His big frame will help in the red zone, and with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin drawing plenty of attention, lanes could open up nicely for Wells, who excels at downhill running. Now maybe Kurt Warner won’t get hit so much.
Who’s Affected (+/-): Tim Hightower (-), Kurt Warner (+), Larry Fitzgerald (+), Anquan Boldin (+)
Juaquin Iglesias, WR, Bears
Chicago’s top three pass catchers last year were a running back, a tight end and a receiver playing his first year at the position. The team needs help at receiver. They get it in Juaquin Iglesias. The third-round pick may prove to be one of the steals of the draft. He runs terrific routes and has great hands. He played in a record-setting Oklahoma offense and joins 4,500-yard passer Jay Cutler with the Bears. Expect Iglesias to be one of the most productive rookie receivers in 2009. His addition should help Devin Hester run freer and draw more single coverage, while tight end Greg Olsen and running back Matt Forte keeps defenders occupied in the middle.
Who’s Affected (+/-): Jay Cutler (+), Devin Hester (+)
David Lee is a Dallas-based writer, and the former editor of Beckett Football and Beckett Basketball. To see more of his work, visit his website at www.MrWriteMedia.com.